About 4.5 years ago, when I was teaching high school in the countryside in Hunan province, I decided to give myself a Chinese name. Most of my students could barely speak English, so this gave them something to latch onto and everyone remembered it easily. The name I chose was not standard or traditional in any way – it translated to Ms. Honeybee White – but it made sense to me and to the students. (original post here).
One of those students went on to study English in the same city where I live now, and we get together regularly for food and adventures. We have a good connection. And she knows my love for bees well.
So well, in fact, that she gave me something quite special last week. She has a friend whose family works with bees around Zhao Qing (肇庆) a city of about 4 million in Guangdong province. My friend put a request in for winter honey. It doesn’t get that cold here, so there are flowers year-round. This particular honey is monofloral – it is derived from a single type of plant. In this case, it is a tree: Schefflera octophylla, also known as Australian Ivy Palm, umbrella tree, octopus tree, and in Chinese, ‘ya jiao mu’ (鸭脚木, yā jiǎo mù) or ‘duck foot tree’. The bark of this tree is considered to be medicinal in China.
The honey appears to be unfiltered, and I am assuming since it came from a personal stash, it was not adulterated. In terms of colour grading, it could probably be classified as a ‘white’ honey. It is light in colour, light golden. (See my article on honey quality, including a section on colour grades here).
The taste is very interesting. The initial flavour is a mildly bitter tang, which is immediately chased by a lovely sweetness. My first try was on its own, of course, but I added some to my morning oatmeal, and it was positively delicious.
Honey is precious. Every time you eat it, remember that a bee, during the span of her life, only produces 1/12 teaspoon. This container above represents the contributions of thousands and thousands of these beautiful beings.